February is Cancer Prevention Month and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is using the opportunity to help Americans separate the myths from facts about cancer risk.
Lifestyle choices make a big difference
The good news: approximately 40 percent of all cancer cases can be prevented. According to AICR, the most important ways to reduce your cancer risk (after not smoking) are: eating a healthy diet, being more active each day and maintaining a healthy weight.
In a statement, the AICR noted that: “the majority of Americans are unaware of these science-based strategies, leading to confusion about lifestyle and cancer risk.”
Throughout the month of February, the group will run a public service announcement intended to educate viewers about the links between lifestyle choices and cancer risk.
Myth: Cancer is an inherited risk
AICR’s Cancer Risk Awareness survey found that 89 percent of people believe that “cancer is often genetic – it is inherited risk and they can do nothing about it.” Experts say, not true. Even if someone has a genetic mutation known to significantly increase cancer risk -- such as the BRCA1 gene that is known to cause breast cancer -- it is not certain that the person will eventually get cancer.
“The myth that there’s nothing you can do to reduce your risk is worrisome,” said AICR’s Senior Director of Nutrition Programs, Alice Bender. “The fact is strong evidence shows there are daily actions we can take to improve our odds of not getting cancer.”
Many of the common misperceptions are perpetuated by sensational headlines from an early animal study or results from a small human trial that are never replicated in larger studies.
Clearing the air about soy, red wine, coffee, organic produce
The belief that soy increases breast cancer risk continues to be one of the most common and persistent myths. Studies have shown that eating whole soy foods may actually reduce risk of cancer for some women.
The headlines around red wine make it tempting to believe that alcohol can be healthy. But the fact is that all alcohol, regardless of the source, is a carcinogen. AICR’s latest report showed that drinking alcohol of any type links to increased risk for breast and several other cancers.
Another idea that is not supported by science but commonly believed is that eating organic fruits and vegetables offers extra protection against cancer. “Eating a diet rich in plant foods can help reduce the risk of cancer – whether organically or conventionally produced,” Bender says. “Research so far has not shown that organically grown foods are more cancer-protective than those grown conventionally.”
A recent court case in California perpetuated the myth that drinking coffee can cause cancer. Scientists say coffee does not need to carry a cancer warning. In fact, research shows that coffee reduces risk for liver and endometrial cancers.
“Through this campaign, we want people to know the best evidence-based steps they can take to lower their cancer risk,” says Bender.
“AICR is grateful to all the organizations and partners joining us for the Cancer Prevention Month campaign,” says Deirdre McGinley-Gieser, Senior Vice President, Programs at AICR.
- Yakima Fresh
- Very Well
- Purity Coffee
- Melissa’s Produce
Our Vision: We want to live in a world where no one develops a preventable cancer.
Our Mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.
We have contributed over $108 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. Find evidence-based tools and information for lowering cancer risk, including AICR’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention, at www.aicr.org.